"Everybody got mixed feelings
About the function and the form
Everybody got to deviate
From the norm..."
–Rush, Vital Signs
This time I was just Dad taking Daughter to her soccer game. As we drove, I thought about how far she'd come in four years of playing and how much she really enjoyed the game.
Go number 7 go, I thought.
I finally had to ask her. "Are you excited about the game today?"
"Yeah," she said. Her tone obviously on the fence.
We drove a few more minutes and then she said, "I'm worried I'm going to make mistakes."
I couldn't help but smile, because as she's gotten older, her self-awareness has awoken and the standard normalcy of this moment could've been captured in a Hallmark card; taking a page right out of the Parenting 101 handbook.
Except, deep down, I knew my response would have to be tempered and kept to the handbook, as the truth to her statement had much more complexity to it. Something that would take years to fully develop, to be able to deal with the many mistakes to come. The mistakes that cause us to sometimes trip over uncertainly into brooding fits and staggering starts, a norm many of us know all too well. Or not. Or somewhere in between. As long as she and her sister always learn to own it in their own ways; to own them and live positively through them; to stay ahead of the doubt and design their own learning curves (with the help and support from us and others along the way).
But Bea's on the cusp of turning 10, so those growing-pain conversations were at least a few years away. I went back to the Hallmark card instead. Ain't nothing wrong with that.
"And that's okay, Beatrice," I said. "We all make mistakes. Without mistakes we don't learn what works and what doesn't and how to do better next time."
"Yeah," she said, still unconvinced.
A minute later.
"I just don't want to make mistakes."
The rest of the way to the game we talked about making mistakes and to keep moving no matter what. She seemed to listen, and nod, and then as soon as we got there she ran enthusiastically to join her team on the field. They played hard on the first game of the season -- mistakes were made and fun was had. When it was over, I took Beatrice out for dinner (the Mama, what I lovingly call my wife, and our other daughter Bryce, were both at the game for most of it and then Bryce had a birthday part to go to).
That night we finished reading one of the Wimpy Kid books together before bedtime. The main character, Greg Heffley, is always making mistakes, and Beatrice acknowledged that by another statement of awareness.
"It's okay. I make mistakes all the time, too."
"And that's okay; we all make mistakes," said the Mama.
"Again, it's what we learn from them in the end what matters the most," I said.
"I know," Bea said.
When it was time to go to sleep, I looked down at Beatrice and wanted to say something reassuring to her, something pithy and encouraging about how we're all uniquely strong and learn how to overcome mistakes in our own ways that lead to positive growth. And then all my own mistakes throughout my lifetime flashed before my very eyes. I realized the only thing that mattered in the moment was one simple yet powerful thing.
"Love you," I said, and kissed her on the forehead.